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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 15:03 GMT
Skeleton in the frame for fame
Great Britain's bob skeleton team is buoyed by a sense of self-belief ahead of the Winter Olympics.
It is a rare quality in British winter sport where some competitors are more likely to recite the mantra that it is the taking part, not the winning, that counts.
But for the skeleton pair of Kristan Bromely and Alex Coomber, winning is all that matters.
More importantly it is an attainable target.
The 28-year-old has just won her third successive World Cup - a unique achievement in British winter sport.
"We're more than hopeful," British Bob Skeleton Association (BBSKA) performance director Simon Timson said with an eye on Salt Lake City.
"We're very confident and we're looking to win medals."
Bob skeleton is returning to the Olympic fold for the first time since 1948, but the British team have been building for this moment since it returned as a demonstration sport at Nagano in 1998.
"Traditionally, it has been one of those sports that has been in the extreme sport category," Timson said of skeleton's roots.
"But over the last three years it has become much more focused.
"We've developed systems that include physiology, biomechanics, psychology and research and development programmes on sleds and runners that has given us a great foundation.
"The athletes train and prepare as professionals would in any other sport, their response has been fantastic.
"Hopefully, we'll see the results of the hard work and total commitment in Salt Lake City."
Much of the pre-Games hype surrounds Coomber who goes to the Olympics as the world number one and favourite.
"It's brilliant for Great Britain as we're not famed for winter sports," she said.
"The fact that we've got into this position cannot be taken away from us.
"I know I can win gold, but the Olympic Games is just one day and two runs of not even two minutes, so anything can happen."
However, the team are looking beyond the immediacy of the Olympics and are already focusing on the 2006 Games in Turin.
Coomber is considering her future options and will talk to her employers, the RAF, on her return from the Games about staying in the sport.
Bromley, a key component of the team on and off the ice, also wants to compete in 2006 and maintain the momentum he has helped build in the sport.
The BAE Systems design engineer started looking at ways to improve the equipment before taking a PhD into the science of the sport.
"We've never been in this position before as we're an embryonic sport and whatever we do - good or bad - we've got to learn from this experience and build for Turin," the 29-year-old said.
"What's going on with the research and technological side is something we've got to continue.
"The building blocks are in place and we need to continue the success.
"It's not just about Salt Lake City, it's about the next four years as well."
The success that the team have enjoyed so far means funding is guaranteed for next season.
A strong showing would strengthen the BBSKA's hand when they turn up with the begging bowl.
However, a medal is the ultimate bargaining tool and would enable them to negotiate a four-year programme through to Turin.
"We've learnt a lot of lessons over the last two years and we can improve on those over the next four years," Timson added.
"We could give athletes even better support, better equipment to race on and guarantee sustained success.
"We could also start to filter that support down to help identify athletes coming through.
"If we can help them develop more quickly it will help generate greater competition in Great Britain.
"In turn that will raise standards and make us more competitive on the international scene."
24 Jan 02 | Luge & Skeleton
Coomber in the spotlight
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